Border Force officials catch family attempting to smuggle tortoises through Bristol Airport
PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:18 04 September 2018
Three tortoises which passengers attempted to smuggle into the UK concealed in cigarette packages were rescued by Border Force officers at Bristol Airport.
The discovery was made on August 28 after a family of six people arrived at Bristol on a flight from Tunisia.
A baggage search revealed three tortoises concealed in separate suitcases which had been transported in the baggage hold.
Each tortoise was found underneath layers of clothing inside cigarette packets containing single lettuce leaves.
The Home Office confirmed to the Times no family members were charged over the incident.
Border Force officers contacted the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) team who confirmed the animals were controlled under the CITES convention and required the correct permits to be imported legally.
Border Force officers arranged for the animals to be transported to a separate facility where they will be cared for appropriately.
Peter Jones, assistant director for Border Force Bristol, said: “Clearly, transporting animals in such a way and without the correct paperwork is not acceptable.
“Rules are in place for reasons of animal welfare and thanks to the intervention of our officers, these tortoises can now be properly cared for.
“This should serve as a warning to anyone thinking about transporting wildlife in such conditions.”
The RSPCA condemned the family’s actions as the animals have ‘specific requirements’.
Its spokesman said: “Reptiles have specific requirements and need a controlled environment, tortoises smuggled illegally into the country in this way are very likely to have suffered.
“The needs of exotic animals can be challenging to meet by members of the public because they are fundamentally linked to certain behaviours, diets or environmental conditions which can be difficult to replicate in a home.
“We urge anyone thinking about getting an exotic pet to thoroughly research the animal’s needs and what is needed to care for them properly, using expert sources and only consider keeping one if they can ensure they are fully able to provide for these needs.”